Cannelloni with ricotta and spinach are an authentic Italian vegetarian dish. A tasty alternative to lasagne, this rich and tasty dish is perfect for non-meat eaters. And with few, easy tricks, also vegans can enjoy this amazing pasta! Our Blogger Silvia (italian in Berlin) wants to share with us her recipe to prepare this mouth-watering treat.
Hello!! I am Silvia. I am an Italian geologist with a great passion for cooking, especially for cake bakery! I live in Berlin since one month and I’m planning to spend six months in this huge, fascinating and multicultural city. I happily organise dinner parties with my friends to share my passion for cooking sweet and savoury dishes and. I would like share with you the taste of the enchanting autumnal atmosphere of Berlin through this Italian/german cooking tandem. I live with my lovely housemate Patricia from Freiburg (which is also really talented cook!) and together we have prepared this dish. Good and tasty food should be simple, fresh, delicious. And it is a real treat not just for your body but also for your soul! Cannelloni with ricotta and spinach
Cannelloni with ricotta e spinach are an awesome, home-made pasta pride of the Italian cooking. They are one the most typical dishes of Italian Sunday big family lunches. Several recipes of cannelloni are available in the international culinary scene. You will easily recognise the authentic Italian ones from the simplicity of the ingredients. The recipe I am sharing with you comes from years of practice and ingredients adjustments. And the home-made pasta is made with an unconventional way, avoiding the use of eggs, in order to add texture to the dish. The result is pretty awesome. So…let’s make it!
Ingredients (6/8 people)
Durum wheat flour 600 g
Hot water 300 ml (not reach boiling level)
Salt 9 g (half teaspoon)
Fresh spinach 500 g (350g if you use frozen spinach)
Ricotta cheese 500 g
Grated parmesan (a large handful)
Grated nutmeg (a pinch, to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Topping béchamel sauce:
Milk 1 litre (approx. 2 pints)
Butter 100 g
White flour 50g
Step 1: Making pasta
Pour a mound of flour on a work surface (wooden board) or in a large bowl. Create a hole at the centre obtaining a sort of volcano: add the salt and, little by little, add hot water in the crater of the flour volcano. While pouring the water, use one hand to mix the water and the flour in the centre of the mound with a constant, circular hand-motion. When most of the flour has been incorporated into the mass, start working the obtained mix with both hands to get a more homogeneous texture.
Several factors can influence the texture of the dough. So even if the ingredient doses are quite accurate, feel free to remove any flour in excess if the dough is hard enough when you have added all the water, but there is still some flour left on your work surface. Or, if the dough is too soft or too sticky once you have added the water, add additional flour until you reach a soft but non-sticky texture. Keep kneading the mixture with your hands (better with fingers than the palm, to have more control of the mix) until the mixture is smooth and elastic. An easy way to verify when you have reached the elasticity is gently poking the dough with a finger. If the dough tends to go back to its original shape, you’ve reached the right elasticity.
Form a ball with the dough and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30-40 minutes, well covered with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap keeps the dough moist and avoids it to harden and dry out. Step 2: Preparing the filling.
Mix the chopped spinaches, the ricotta, the grated parmesan, the grated nutmeg and the salt in a bowl until the mixture is homogeneous.
Step 3: Roll the pasta sheets.
You can either use a machine to roll the dough (it is easier!) or you can hand-roll it with a rolling pin (great alternative to the gym, as you won’t be able to move your arms for a week afterwards, hehe). Note: don’t be too worried to obtain large sheets (as when you make tagliatelle for example) as you will have to cut the pasta in small pieces anyway.
Once pasta sheets are ready, they should be cut in the right shapes. Pasta sheets to make cannelloni should be cut in rectangles or squares (approximately 15cm*15cm). Don’t worry about being too precise with the measurements though, as once you have rolled them, little differences won’t be noticeable.
Cook the pasta in boiling water. Pay attention not to overcook it! Once cooked, strain the pasta and then dry up each sheet with a kitchen cloth. Step 4: Fill the cannelloni.
Fill each pasta square with the spinach/ricotta mixture and roll the pasta. About a tablespoon of filling mixture for each cannelloni. Spread a thin layer of butter on a baking dish. One by one, arrange the cannelloni within it. Step 5: Making the béchamel sauce.
Put the butter in a pot or pan, preferably high and with a small diameter. Gently melt the butter over very low heat.
Remove the pan with butter from the fire and slowly sieve the flour in the pan while stirring the butter and the flour with a wooden spoon or a whisk. Keep whisking until the mixture is smooth. Place the pan back on the low fire and cook one or two minutes, stirring constantly: the mixture should turn into a golden color, but not burnt. While stirring constantly, pour the hot milk. Do not worry if some lumps appear: continue stirring and you will see that the mixture flour-butter will gradually melt perfectly into the milk.
Salt and season to taste with a nice sprinkling of nutmeg. Keep simmering the béchamel, stirring constantly, until it is nice and thick and will start boiling. When the first bubbles appear, the béchamel is ready!
The recipe I have proposed is used to prepare a sauce of creamy/runny texture: if you want a thicker sauce, increase proportionally the amount of flour and butter but maintaining the same amount of milk (for example, use 80 grams of flour and 80 g butter). If you want the béchamel to be more fluid, decrease the doses of flour and butter or, alternatively, increase the amount of milk.
Step 6: Bake the cannelloni.
Cover the cannelloni with béchamel and sprinkle them with grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 200 °C for 35-40 min. Turn on the grill only for the last 5 minutes, in order to brown the top and have a crunchy, golden crust. Step 7: Enjoy your cannelloni with ricotta and spinach!